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Front Microbiol. 2017 Jan 31;8:135. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.00135. eCollection 2017.

Spoilage of Microfiltered and Pasteurized Extended Shelf Life Milk Is Mainly Induced by Psychrotolerant Spore-Forming Bacteria that often Originate from Recontamination.

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1
Chair of Microbial Ecology, Institute for Food and Health, Technische Universität München Freising, Germany.

Abstract

Premature spoilage and varying product quality due to microbial contamination still constitute major problems in the production of microfiltered and pasteurized extended shelf life (ESL) milk. Spoilage-associated bacteria may enter the product either as part of the raw milk microbiota or as recontaminants in the dairy plant. To identify spoilage-inducing bacteria and their routes of entry, we analyzed end products for their predominant microbiota as well as the prevalence and biodiversity of psychrotolerant spores in bulk tank milk. Process analyses were performed to determine the removal of psychrotolerant spores at each production step. To detect transmission and recontamination events, strain typing was conducted with isolates obtained from all process stages. Microbial counts in 287 ESL milk packages at the end of shelf life were highly diverse ranging from <1 to 7.9 log cfu/mL. In total, 15% of samples were spoiled. High G+C Gram-positive bacteria were the most abundant taxonomic group, but were responsible for only 31% of spoilage. In contrast, psychrotolerant spores were isolated from 55% of spoiled packages. In 90% of samples with pure cultures of Bacillus cereus sensu lato and Paenibacillus spp., counts exceeded 6 log cfu/mL. In bulk tank milk, the concentration of psychrotolerant spores was low, accounting for merely 0.5 ± 0.8 MPN/mL. Paenibacillus amylolyticus/xylanexedens was by far the most dominant species in bulk tank milk (48% of all isolates), but was never detected in ESL milk, pointing to efficient removal during manufacturing. Six large-scale process analyses confirmed a high removal rate for psychrotolerant spores (reduction by nearly 4 log-units). B. cereus sensu lato, on the contrary, was frequently found in spoiled end products, but was rarely detected in bulk tank milk. Due to low counts in bulk tank samples and efficient spore removal during production, we suggest that shelf life is influenced only to a minor extent by raw-milk-associated factors. In contrast, recontamination with spores, particularly from the B. cereus complex, seems to occur. To enhance milk quality throughout the entire shelf life, improved plant sanitation and disinfection that target the elimination of spores are necessary.

KEYWORDS:

extended shelf life (ESL) milk; microbiota; microfiltration; psychrotolerant spore-forming bacteria; spoilage

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